I'm using Mac 10.9.5 with bash shell. I'm trying to search for instances of text within a group of files, but for some reason, in one particular directory, I get this bizarre "Unterminated quote" error ...

Daves-MacBook-Pro:sbadmin davea$ find src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/ -name "*" | xargs grep 'addresses' > /tmp/addr
xargs: unterminated quote

Any ideas how to solve this?

1 Answer 1


That happens because one of the filenames contains a quote and is passed to xargs as-is. That means xargs is run like xargs grep 'addresses' > /tmp/addr some file'name — and there is an unterminated ' here.

The actual problem is that you're using find | xargs. That's something you really don't want to do, even if it looks tempting.

There are a few solutions to this problem:

  1. Use the -print0 option for find and -0 for xargs:

    find src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/ -name "*" -print0 | xargs -0 grep 'addresses' > /tmp/addr

    This is the recommended way to pipe from find to xargs because it can deal with any filename, even those containing newlines.

    Note that using -name "*" is superfluous. You should also consider using -type f to filter only files. And you could, of course, call a program from within find, too:

    find … -type f -exec grep 'addresses' {} \; > /tmp/addr

    But this is also not recommended. See the second option:

  2. Use a more efficient approach altogether – recursive greping with the -r option:

    grep -r 'addresses' src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/ > /tmp/addr

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